English 6193, Spring 2011
Bill Lavender, Instructor
phone: 504 280 7457
There are four ongoing assignments for the class:
1. Composition. Each of you should compose at least three new poems per week. These poems should be written according to a procedure which you will decide upon in the first two weeks. Procedures can range from traditional forms to writing schedule; they can concern form and/or content, sound, etc. but they always involve a composition practice, a regular, weekly routine to which you must commit at the beginning and adhere to without fail. Bernadette Mayer once wrote, "My way of writing poetry has always involved being a certain way so you could always write poetry, trying to is not even an issue..." A lot of what we call 'writer's block' is simply not having our lives arranged so that they are conducive to poetry, and it's important to realize that poetry is a vocation; you have to arrange your life so that you can be productive. A procedure is one such arrangement. Options will be discussed during the first two weeks and more information will be made available on the Discussion Board.
2. Critique. Each week two or three poets will present one poem for detailed examination and critique. These examinations will not focus on suggestions for revision but on general issues of poetics that the poems suggest. Students will be expected to refer the poems submitted to other contemporary or historical poetry and/or critical thought and to thus place the work in the poetic tradition, and also to examine their placement within the series that the poet is producing.
3. Readings of contemporary poetry; review writing. Each of you should read at least four single-author books of contemporary poetry, write reviews of two of them, and get the reviews published. There will be a forum for the discussion of this process, selecting the books to review, where to send for publication, etc. The first review will be due the week of February 20, the second on March 20. This is to give us enough time to send them off for publication before the semester ends.
4. Final project. The final project will simply be your poems series, edited and assembled into a book or chapbook..
The majority of our work in this class will take place on the Discussion Board in Blackboard. I will post everything you need to know- assignments, deadlines, etc.- either in the Announcements section or on the Discussion Board forum descriptions.
I will create a forum for each week of the course; in that forum we will review the poem that is up for criticism that week. I will also create one forum for each of you in which to post your three procedural poems each week.
I do not normally use email for class communications, and I would appreciate it if you would limit email to private matters such as grades, or other matters not related to the class. I will post a Logistics forum, and that is where I would like you to ask any questions you may have about how the course works. I expect everyone to read everything that is posted on the Diiscussion Board.
Please note that the Discussion Board is not Facebook. Don't use the informal speech of chat rooms here. The discourse should be conversational, but elevated....
There are no specific assigned texts, though everyone is expected to read extensively from a variety of sources.
Source Materials (this list may grow as the course progresses)
Ronald Johnson (from Spring 07, Ark):
An RJ Alphabet (index of other sources)
From Luis Zukofsky's "A" (scan of first few pages)
From Charles Olson's Maximus Poems (scan of first few pages)
Grading is quantitative and not qualitative. If you do all the work assigned and contribute to the class every week, you will receive an A. If you do 50% of the work, you will receive an F. Etc. I may also give some "tests" in this course. I put the term in quotes because these will not be the sorts of tests you are used to seeing and they will not qualitatively influence your grade.
A Procedure is a set of rules for producing work. Forms like sonnets and villanelles, for example, are procedures, but so are rules like picking words out of a hat or exercises like these. Procedures can involve a writing schedule, a place of writing, a bodily position, the kind of notebook you write in, computer manipulations, the form of the work, the subject matter, the precise words involved, etc. They almost always involve the concept of constraint; that is, some sort of limitation on form, content, or both.
When I wrote my book While Sleeping I created for myself a number of rules. First, I would only write while in bed and as close to sleep as possible. Second, I would only compose in longhand, in a particular binder I got for this purpose. Third, I would leave the notebook by my bed for a period of one year. I think you'll find that behind a lot of poetry books that are published are a set of rules like these.
You might take a look at this article by Marjorie Perloff for a detailed look at the logic of Procedures.
For this class, I want each of you to conceive a chapbook project, complete with title and procedure, that produces two or three poems per week, for a total of thirty or forty poems in the semester. Your procedure should include, at minimum, a writing schedule, at least one rule concerning form or language, and at least one rule concerning content.
Procedures used by students, Spring 2010-
1) Each poem must be 10 stanzas 2) Each poem must not be longer than one page 3) Each stanza will end in a word or words pulled in chronological order from a list of my 2009 Facebook status updates. 4) Working in cycles of three, the stanzas of the first poem will end in the final word of ten consecutive status updates, always working in chronological order from the beginning of the year. 5) In the second poem, each stanza will end in the last two words of the next ten status updates. 6) In the third poem, stanzas will end in the last three words of the next batch of ten status updates. 7) In poem four, the cycle starts again and I will be back to using one word. In poem five, I will use two words. In poem six, three words. And so the pattern will continue. 8) The content must be related to my experience of the year 2010. 9) Schedule: one poem on Mondays and Wednesdays, during my lunch break, and one on Saturdays
I will take three 20-minute (or longer) walks each week between Monday and Saturday. Following each walk, I will write a poem based on observations or insights I have while walking. For every two minutes I walk, I will write one line of the poem. Every poem title will be grounded in location (i.e. it will include a street name, building reference, etc.). I will refrain from using the "I" pronoun. On Sunday, I will revise the three poems and post them to the discussion board .
1. Each evening I watch a movie in French, taking notes.
2. The morning after each film I translate a contemporary French poem into English.
3. Each morning's poem alternates a line taken from notes on the film with a line of the translation (the translation and combining happens every morning between 6-7:30 a.m.).
1. Each poem comes entirely from comments on the film and translations.
2. Each poem will be a back-and-forth, either line-by-line or stanza-by-stanza, between film notes and translation.
I will choose a city I've visited at random. Using alliteration I will write each line starting with the letter in the city's name. All the words in the first line with start with the first letter of the city's name and all the words in the second line with start with the second letter and so on. If the city is shorter than 7 letters I will use the state or country also. One third of the poem has to describe the city's people, one third has to describe the city's architecture or landscape, and one third has to describe my feelings or experience in the city. I will write all three Monday afternoon and force them to be finished by Monday evening.
The poems will feature two alternating voices: Pi (π ) and the Fibonacci number, in the form of piems and fibs respectively. 3.14…, as in piems, will be represented in word/letter count. 0,1,1,2,3,5,8, as in fibs, will be represented in line/syllable count. For example, 3.14 may read, 'You, I love.'
The Fibonacci number will begin the series. The first digits are 0,1,1,2,3,5, then later 144,233… It will be represented as the sum grows beyond single digits in couplets, tercets and so on.
In between the poems (fibs/piems), √3 will comment, acting as a chorus. The notations will conform to the number of words in a sentence. With 7,3,2, being the next digits in its series, the first interjection will begin with a seven word sentence. Upon reaching a zero in the sequence, the next break between piem/fib will have no chorus/comments, thus falling silent while still acting as a place holder.
In constructing the overall work, √3's notations will likely be done last (or at least heavily edited), as the word count of √3's entries will form the golden ratio (phi, φ) with those of both Pi (π) and the Fibonacci number -hence the title.
There will be a relationship between the numeric identities: Pi and Fibonacci are lovers and probably monarchs of a sort. √3 is their offspring.
I will compose 64 piems and fibs in total because it is the number of the squares on a chess board and Réti 's endgame study of 1921, w hite to play and draw, will form part of the work, though likely played backwards from said draw.
A poem will be begun each day when the sun reaches its apex and there are no shadows, continuing to be written as the shadows increase and until the poem is finished.
Each morning, I put my iTunes on shuffle. The title of the first song to play becomes an acrostic, dictating the poem's number of lines and stanzas. The last word in each line will be the first x number of words in the song, where x equals the number of letters in the title. I will lay out the acrostic first thing in the morning and write the poem during my daughter's first nap.
Pick a fortune by chance. Write a poem about the fortune. The fortune itself will act as an acrostic. I would like for this to be a narrative collection, each piece either talking about a character or from a character's point of view. I'll write a poem everyday.
1. Use the books Intelligence in War by John Keegan and The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell as word sources.
2. Make a list of words from each book consisting of the 1st word of the 1st line of the 1st page, the 2nd word of the 2nd line of the 2nd page, etc. through the 12th word of the 12th line of the 12th page.
3. Interweave the book lists into a combo lists that will supply the first word of each line of the poems.
4. Write 3 poems a week using these source words for 15 weeks. Write every morning (Tu/Th/Sa: use procedure; M/W/F: write something else; Su: revisit the week's work. Submit 3 poems to boards by Monday).
5. One poem a week must be written as a 12x12. .
(1.) I shall write three times per week when I walk. (2.) I shall take walks at a certain time (3:00 PM).(3.) I will take different walks each time using them generate poems. (4.) I will use an acrostic form for the poems.
English 6193, Spring 2011
Bill Lavender, Instructor
phone: 504 280 7457
office: ED 210 (Education Building)